To Sum It All Up . . .

It’s been a crazy week in the world of junior tennis!  In case you’re feeling as overwhelmed as I am, I thought I’d summarize what’s going on and my recommended action items.

  • USTA has adopted changes to its Junior Competition calendar that will become effective in 2014. If you haven’t yet seen it, the new 2014 tournament calendar is here. Some interested parties who feel that the changes should, at the very least, be delayed for further study, have created an online petition and are seeking signatures. If you would like to view and/or sign this petition, click here.
  • NCAA has passed new rules affecting its year-end Championships effective September 1, 2012, for the Spring 2013 tournament.  The rules are purported to be in the interest of bringing additional fans to the sport and garnering tv coverage.  To read the new rules, click here.  To their credit, USTA is partnering with ITA to write a joint opposition letter to the rule changes.
  • A group of current and former collegiate players have formed a Facebook group to try to get NCAA to reconsider the rule changes.  They have created an event to organize a Twitter rampage on Saturday at Noon EDT.  To learn more, click here.  They have also created an online petition to overturn the changes.  To read and/or sign it, click here.
  • Sunday’s ParentingAces radio show will feature a discussion of the NCAA rule changes and what we as tennis parents can do to help preserve the integrity of the college system for our kids.  Tune in live at 6:30pm EDT by clicking here then call in with your questions and/or comments at 714-583-6853.  If you miss the live broadcast, you can hear the podcast by clicking on the Radio Show tab in the menu bar above.

Tennis Parents & Coaches: Please Read!

The following is an email that I received this morning from Robert Sasseville who runs several junior tournaments in the Southern Section.  Please take the appropriate action and feel free to pass along to others who want to be informed.  Thank you!

It was great having you in Rome for the GA Jr. Open.  I hope you had an enjoyable time.

With 650 players, 7 sites, and 4 days to play it, we didn’t get much of a chance to chat.  If we had, I’m sure the 2014 National Tournament Schedule would have been at the top of the list of things to discuss.

Since we had players from 13 sections, 24 states, and the District of Columbia, many of you are interested in play outside of your hometown, home state, and home section.  This aspect of competition is one of the casualties of the 2014 schedule.

Since USTA Southern voted AGAINST the new National Junior Competition Structure, it should be no surprise to you  that I concur with our section in opposition.

Patrick McEnroe and other USTA staff members held Parent/Coach meetings pertaining to the 2014 National Competition changes last week at the at the National Championships.  If the comments at all sites were like those at the 12’s and 14’s, it was pretty obvious that there is not a lot of support for the upcoming changes, if they are actually implemented.

If you haven’t yet seen it, the 2014 tournament calendar is here.

A petition has been constructed by interested parties who feel that the changes should, at the very least, be delayed for further study.

If you would like to view this petition, click the link below:

http://www.gopetition.com/     

If the link doesn’t work, just cut and paste the address into your browser.  In the “Search” box in the upper right corner type “AMEND 2014 USTA JR RULES”

We hope to see you next year at the GA Open.

What’s Really Going On?

Patrick McEnroe (General Manager of Player Development) – along with both Lew Brewer (Director of Junior Competition) and Kent Kinnear (Director of Player ID & Development) – has been at both the Boys and Girls 12-and-Under National Hardcourt tournaments this week holding Q&A sessions with parents and coaches.  The main purpose of these sessions was to discuss the 2014 changes coming to the national junior competition schedule.  Click here to listen to the session held in Atlanta recorded by our friends at High-Tech Tennis (Julie & Danny do apologize for the poor audio – the tournament site was bustling with players, parents, and tourney officials!).

I’ve listened to the session, read lots of comments from other parents and coaches, and tried to figure out what’s really going on here.  I’m totally confused.

First of all, the fact that the USTA chose the 12-and-under events as their forum for these Q&As underlines the fact that, if your child hasn’t been cherry-picked by USTA by age 12, then your child will continue to go unnoticed by our governing body throughout his/her junior career.  Patrick McEnroe even says during the Q&A, “We know at 13 or 14 who the top players are.”  Why doesn’t USTA take into account that many children are late bloomers?  That they could come into their own as late as 16 or 17?  That they are writing off several years’ worth of potentially top players?  My own son is a clear example of that.  At age 12, he was struggling just to win matches at local tournaments.  Now, at age 16, he is finally starting to win not only matches but tournaments, and not just at the local level but also at the sectional and even national level.  From last year to this year, he went from being a 2-star player to earning his 4-star status during this current rating period on TennisRecruiting.net.  What that means in real terms is that he went from being ranked 527 to being ranked within the top 200 in his high school graduating class.  And, there are several boys who train with him who fit a similar profile.

One parent asked where the top American professional players are coming from.  Patrick’s response:  “Where the top pro players are coming from has nothing to do with Junior Comp in a way.”  I thought that was the charge of the Junior Competition committee, to develop top players?  Isn’t it relevant to track where and how and with whom the current American pros developed in order for USTA to replicate a winning formula?  Patrick’s answer to that question doesn’t make any sense to me.

I haven’t had a chance to reach out to Patrick or Lew or Kent yet, but I plan to.  I simply don’t understand what’s going on with USTA and its leadership.  I don’t understand the basis for these major decisions being made on behalf of our children, and, even after spending over an hour listening to the Q&A, I don’t understand how Patrick McEnroe and the others think that these changes are in the best interest of developing top American players.  They really didn’t explain anything.

So, I will continue reaching out to USTA for clarification.  I will continue to support our governing organization in terms of volunteering and entering my kid in USTA tournaments.  But, I will also look for alternatives to the status quo, which is why I’m spending the time and the money to take my son up to Maryland later this month to play in an event that will have absolutely no impact on his ranking or star rating but could have a major impact on his development as a tennis player.  I encourage the rest of you to consider doing the same.